Layla Moran takes action after holding virtual surgery on BBC Radio Oxford


Layla Moran, Lib Dem MP for Oxford West and Abingdon, has responded to callers’ queries and taken action on their behalf following her virtual surgery on BBC Radio Oxford this morning [25 March 2020].

Layla answered many of the callers’ questions live on air, but took some away to give a more detailed response. Where clarification or action is needed from the Government, she has written to Ministers. Below are her further responses, and letters to the Government.

I’m self-employed and need more financial support due to COVID-19 and a loss of revenue. What support is available?

The self-employed deserve the same protection as others from drastic external shocks to the economy which can seriously inhibit their ability to work. If you are in urgent need of financial support, you can apply for Universal Credit or the ‘new style’ Employment and Support Allowance (you can apply for the latter if you’ve paid enough National Insurance contributions in the last 2 to 3 years). 

If you are affected by coronavirus you will be able to apply for Universal Credit and can receive up to a month’s advance upfront without physically attending a job centre. If you are suffering from coronavirus or are required to stay at home and want to apply for ESA, the usual 7 waiting days for new claimants will not apply.

More information about both is here: https://www.understandinguniversalcredit.gov.uk/coronavirus/ 

Income Tax payments due in July 2020 under the Self-Assessment system will be deferred to January 2021. Those in financial distress, and with outstanding tax liabilities, may be eligible to receive support with their tax affairs through HMRC’s Time To Pay service. These arrangements are agreed on a case-by-case basis and are tailored to individual circumstances and liabilities.

You can call HMRC if you are concerned and need help: 0800 0159 559 

More information is here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-employers-and-businesses-about-covid-19/covid-19-support-for-businesses#support-for-businesses-paying-tax

I understand that, for many, this isn’t enough. The Government must guarantee 80% of self-employed people’s average income over the last three years, up to a cap of £35,000, as I and my colleagues in my party have called for.  The Government should act to clearly introduce financial support for the self-employed. I have joined cross-party calls for the Government to introduce a Universal Basic Income. No-one should have to face a choice between isolating to protect their health and putting food on the table for themselves and/or their children. 

I have also, together with MPs from Labour, the SNP, Plaid Cymru and the Greens written an open letter to the Government on Monday urging them to introduce temporary measures to give the self-employed financial help. 

 

Jonathan asked about building sites and contractors, including what the Government will do to support contractors pulling out of sites early so they aren’t in breach of their contracts.

Site managers need to take the Government’s advice about keeping 2 metres apart seriously, and I know that many don’t at the moment. If you are working indoors, it’s important to keep the site well ventilated and to keep your distance from each other - firms and managers need to facilitate this.

On the subject of contracts, I said that I would go away and write to the Minister to seek clarification - the Government has said that courts will be given a clear steer to support the contractors if these matters to go to court, but that’s not enough.

You can read my letter to the Justice Secretary here:

The Rt Hon Robert Buckland QC MP 

Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice 

Ministry of Justice, 102 Petty France 

Westminster, London, SW1H 9AJ 

25 March 2020 

Dear Robert, 

I hope you’re well, and that you’re staying safe. I am concerned that many contractors, perhaps most notably those in the construction industry including firms that employ a significant number of people, feel that they have to continue to work during the COVID-19 pandemic, putting lives at risk. 

I’ve heard from construction workers in my own constituency, as well as others nearby (including during my ‘virtual surgery’ on BBC Radio Oxford this morning), that their employers are asking them to still come into work. It is my understanding that much of this is due to fears from firms that they are in danger of breaching the terms of their contracts.  

Whilst the Government has allowed construction work to continue, it has been clear that workers should ‘social distance’ and remain 2 metres apart. I’m afraid to say that this is not being observed in many quarters, and I fear that this is undermining the strategy to flatten the curve of this virus. 

That’s why I am seeking clarity from you, and ask that you: 

  • Publish clear guidance for contractors, especially construction firms, reassuring them that the Government will support them if they have to breach contracts to follow the Government’s instructions regarding COVID-19 
  • Carefully consider whether non-essential construction work should be called to a halt at this time 

I understand that, in many instances, contractors will be able to request a time extension as they will be facing staff shortages outside of their control. However, for many others, for now they are able to continue, and this is causing real anxiety for workers and others. 

I hope that you will agree with me that real leadership is needed on this, and I look forward to hearing from you at the earliest possible opportunity. 

Yours sincerely, 

Layla Moran MP 

Member of Parliament for Oxford West and Abingdon 

 

Mike in Witney asked what is being done to protect his company pension?

This is a really good question, and I said I didn’t have the answers at the time and that I would write to the Government. My letter to the Pensions Minister is below: 

Guy Opperman MP 

Parliamentary Under Secretary of State 

Department for Work and Pensions 

Caxton House 

6-12 Tothill Street 

London, SW1H 9NA 

25 March 2020 

Dear Guy,  

COVID-19 represents a serious threat to the economic wellbeing of so many in the United Kingdom, and across the world. This means that many of my constituents have rightly raised concerns over their private/employer-funded pensions and what action the Government is taking to protect them.  

Many are concerned that the Government is not doing enough to support employers that are struggling to contribute to their defined benefit pension funds. Many of these funds are already facing a funding gap which the coronavirus has only exacerbated. Should these companies fail to properly fund their pension liabilities many pensioners could face significant hardship. 

There is concern amongst many that the Government is not doing enough to help those employers who contribute to a defined benefit pension fund to make their payments. If they do not, it could mean many workers who rely on these funds could lose their pension or more likely see it reduced. 

We simply cannot let this happen, particularly given the fact that pensioners may be some of the hardest hit by the coronavirus epidemic. We must do everything we can to protect everyone’s pensions during this crisis. I am deeply concerned that the COVID-19 pandemic will have lasting consequences on individuals’ private and employer pensions, that will harm so many for years after the pandemic has ended.  

I would like to ask what plans the Government has to ensure every individual’s pension is safe and secure during the pandemic.  

I look forward to your response.  

Yours sincerely,  

Layla Moran MP 

Member of Parliament for Oxford West and Abingdon 

 

Geraldine called and asked what is being done to bring back UK nationals who are stranded abroad?

This has been a top priority for me and my team - I have a number of constituents who are currently unable to return to the UK and need help.

For the latest advice and guidance from the Government, please go here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/travel-advice-novel-coronavirus

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) is working closely with all MPs to help their constituents, and we are in almost constant communication with them. The main thing to do, if you are stranded abroad or you have a relative who is, is to contact your MP. If you’re not sure who that is, you can check here: https://members.parliament.uk/constituencies/ 

The FCO is working on securing a point where aircraft can refuel halfway on their return from New Zealand and Australia, as this is a real issue at the moment. 

Cost to passengers and airlines is a real concern. Yesterday, the Foreign Secretary said to the House of Commons: “We are helping to reduce travel costs by encouraging airlines to have maximum flexibility on changing return tickets. Where people are in real need, our consular teams will work with them to consider their options. As a last resort, we offer an emergency loan.”

 

A frontline NHS worker wrote in, asking whether there is any compensation planned for key worker families in the event they die from COVID-19, and if they will be receiving increased pay.

Thank you to every key worker for everything you’re doing. You’re on the frontline working hard to keep us all safe. I absolutely agree with you that compensation should be planned and that pay should be increased to reflect the role you’re playing. Whilst the Government responds positively to suggestions like this, I haven’t heard of plans for either yet.

As I said I would, today I wrote to Matt Hancock to support your suggestions, and to call for them to implemented as soon as possible. Read my letter to him here:

Rt Hon Matt Hancock MP 

Secretary of State for Health and Social Care 

Department of Health and Social Care 

39 Victoria Street 

London, SW1H 0EU 

25 March 2020 

Dear Matt, 

I hope you’re well, and that you’re staying safe. I’m writing to you about the key workers on the frontline of our fight against COVID-19, who are doing heroic work every single day for us all. 

This morning, during my virtual surgery on BBC Radio Oxford, a key worker wrote in to ask a difficult question that needs to be asked, and deserves to be answered: if key workers die during this pandemic due to COVID-19, will the Government compensate their families?  

This particular individual has a nine-year-old daughter, and both them and their spouse are key workers. They have no close family. If one of them or both of them are killed by the virus, what protection will the Government provide for their daughter? 

Our key workers, on the frontline, deserve this financial protection, as I’m sure you would agree. Furthermore, will they be receiving increased pay to reflect the role they are playing? 

This is absolutely vital, and I will also be raising this directly with Number 10 in the coming days. Would you be able to look at this urgently, and let me know what plans are in place? 

Those going to work every day to help fight this pandemic are worried, and they’re scared. They’re doing an incredibly brave thing, and they must be guaranteed compensation if they die from COVID-19. 

Thank you for taking the time to read my letter, Matt, and I look forward to hearing from you at your earliest possible convenience. 

Yours sincerely, 

Layla Moran MP 

Member of Parliament for Oxford West and Abingdon 

 

EJ called about school exam cancellations. They’re currently in Year 12, and concerned about the lack of clarity for Year 12s and Year 10s in particular. They asked if allowances will be made for the content missed?

All exams have been cancelled, although I know that schools’ approaches to content and teaching during this period of closure are varied.

Ofqual are in the process of developing the method by which grades will be awarded, and the Government have reassured us that this will take into account the fact that pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds often have disproportionately lower predicted grades. Students will also have the option to sit exams in the summer of 2021, if they wish.  

Once we hear more from there Government and Ofqual, I’ll make sure to update you.

In terms of content being missed during this period - I’ve been pushing hard for schools to have a duty to at least deliver some form of teaching. If schools don’t return by the end of Easter, I will be speaking to the Government about what needs to be done to ensure everyone can learn, and no student loses out.

Further guidance from the Government is here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-cancellation-of-gcses-as-and-a-levels-in-2020/coronavirus-covid-19-cancellation-of-gcses-as-and-a-levels-in-2020 

 

Have a question you need answering? If you’re my constituent, please email me at layla.moran.mp@parliament.uk and include your full name and postcode.

I’m hoping to be back on BBC Radio Oxford in a few weeks, so you can also speak to me then.


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